by Josh Johnson
The second post-hiatus episode of “Community” was a solid, laugh-filled half-hour, but it wasn’t one of the show’s pantheon level installments. Still, the last scene of the show, which took place in the eternally awesome “Dreamatorium,” is one of the best scenes the show has ever done.
In the A-plot of “Contemporary Impressionists,” Abed incurs a large debt hiring celebrity impersonators for his own personal use. The agency’s French Stewart-impersonating owner (played by French Stewart, naturally) allows the group to pay off the sum by entertaining at a Bar Mitzvah with his team of doppelgangers. Shirley is Oprah, Jeff is a better-looking Ryan Seacrest (“You’re more handsome than the guy who’s famous for being handsome”), and Troy and Britta play pre and post-surgery Michael Jackson.
Basically, the majority of “Contemporary Impressionists” is what “Critical Film Studies” would have been if it decided to be a “Pulp Fiction” episode and not a “My Dinner With Andre” episode. Sure, it was funny seeing the gang all pop-cultured out (Britta moon-walking was definitely a highlight), but “Community” is at its best when it parodies broad concepts, like action movies or conspiracy theories, and lets the characters fill in the blanks. For example, I loved watching Britta as Mia Wallace, but “Critical Film Studies” doesn’t work without Abed’s “Cougar Town” speech, which is a distinctly and uniquely Abed moment that no other character on any other show could pull off.
However, the last few minutes of the episode brought the hammer down and made me very interested in the coming episodes. After Troy comes home from the Bar Mitzvah he confronts Abed, and tells him sometimes he has to listen to him, because sometimes he knows more about certain things than Abed does. Abed is clearly taken aback, but he agrees to Troy’s proposition. He then politely excuses himself to go play “Inspector Spacetime” by himself, leaving Troy hanging without out doing their signature handshake. I know this sounds ridiculous, but the scene was truly heartbreaking.
Then, in the Dreamatorium, Abed is confronted with Evil Abed (Abed with a felt-goatee, last seen in the darkest timeline). Evil Abed notes cryptically that Troy isn’t playing with Abed. Abed thinks this turn of events is “inaccessible, and maybe too dark,” to which Evil Abed replies “Maybe to them, but not to us.” He accepts this reasoning with his signature “Cool. Cool cool cool” (to which Evil Abed hilariously replies “Hot. Hot hot hot”).
Abed has always been paradoxically characterized as the most immature member of the group. While he constantly uses pop-culture references, he is still portrayed as the most grounded and comfortable character (and sane, according to Britta’s psychology tests).
Troy, meanwhile, has become the most developed character on the show, evolving from an arrogant and ignorant jock to someone who is slowly becoming sure of himself and the man he wants to become. That development is almost singlehandedly attributed to his friendship with Abed, and to put that friendship in danger is an even bigger risk than a “Dungeons and Dragons” episode. Though the group has faced its challenges (Pierce’s villainy in Season 2 is the most prevalent), a rift between its constant could have a shattering affect, and I trust the writers of “Community” to handle it seriously.
If nothing else, “Contempary Impressionists” succeeds because I’m dying to see the next episode. Also, it had the Dean go into a state of rigor mortis after seeing Jeff in aviators, which alone merits rejoicing.
Josh Johnson is music editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.